A Collection of Reflections and Poetry
The Heartsong collection of poems and reflections is both mystical and sensory. Inspired by her connection to the natural world, events and sacred places, the author uses her impressions of light and colour to evoke and paint this magical blend of inner and outer landscapes in a flow of words.
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Girasole - How well the italian word evokes the essence of the flower. Today in Assisi the heat from the sun feels like sunflowers, gentle and penetrating, soft bright and happy. My joints feel nurtured, my knees and shoulders are cheerful and flexible. In May, the Italian countryside is abundantly green, lush with wildflowers and trees laden with lemons. Olive groves line the hillside with a promise of harvest, a promise of extra virgin oil.
Assisi, clean stone and mediaeval perched upon the slopes of Mount Subasio. It is busy and sacred, relaxed and ancient. There are pilgrims and tourists seeking to trace the footsteps of San Francesco a thirteenth century revolutionary who became a monk and made the church available to the whole population instead of just the wealthy.
What was it he felt nearly eight centuries ago and why did so many young people in this town follow his example? At this moment, I resist the temptation to buy a book from one of the many shops selling statues, plaques and other religious paraphanalia. I am seeking the inspiration, the spirit of Francesco Bernadone not the history or the hearsay.
I have some success in the sanctuary of San Damiano. This is the first church in the area to be restored by the saint. Walking outside the city walls he found it in ruin, except for the presence of a Byzantine Cross, a presence Francesco found inspiring.
“Restore my church!” said a voice from the cross. And Francesco did just that, following his inspiration until it was complete, putting all his energy and life into this one task like an artist painting a masterpiece or a musician producing a great concerto.
What do I feel sitting on a pew in this old stone, looking at the newer Byzantine cross and then beyond it towards an evocative wall painting of the Madonna depicted in softest green, blue, ochre and terracotta. The footsteps of twenty first century pilgrims echo on the flagstones as they have for centuries but for all that, a holy silence fills the cool dark interior of this first simple church, which seems in my mind to merge with the landscape outside. Is this how Francesco was able to trust in the abundance of God to sustain him. Is this how he was able to give up his comfortable life to follow his divine inspiration, his dream his passion. Some of the town elders said he was mad but the young did not.
Later in the Piazza del Commune, I discover a different kind of church, or at least that is what I first thought. The façade is Roman with an age of over two thousand years. I touch the pillars with a sense of wonder. How many people has this stone witnessed? I am a little overawed as my mind struggles with the concept of so many births, lives and deaths.
The interior is cool, decorated in a lavish catholic tradition more reminiscent of Dolce and Gabana. A single statue of the Madonna crowned with a halo of electric stars, stands above the altar pouring blessings upon a modern congregation. This place was once the Temple of Minerva before a virgin ever gave birth to a Christ. There has always been something special here. The presence in Assisi seems feminine, inclusive, abundant, protective and creative. There is no wonder that to me the essence of San Francesco feels like sunflowers. Brother Sun is gentle, inspired, inspiring, in spirit, Spiritus Sanctus, Holy Spirit.
From the main square, I locate the Basilica of Santa Chiara – St. Clare, a young woman who also renounced her noble background to work and pray with Francesco. The original Byzantine cross of San Damiano has been removed here with her remains. In the spirit of the Madonna, she cared for the nuns, the population and Francesco when he developed stigmata towards the end of his life. She is out there in the warm stone, on the green hillsides, in the abundant gardens and olive groves. She is definitely not residing in the tomb.
I am surprised and pleased to find the main Basilica of San Francesco open at nine on Saturday evening. The crowds have returned to their hotels for dinner and at last I become immersed in the beauty of the frescoes on the walls and vaulted ceilings. In the crypt, the remains of the Saint lie in state, candle lit and silent. The air is heavy with prayer and supplication. This is a place to focus, give thanks or ask for guidance.
This atmosphere, created, by people over centuries, conjures up the Saint’s presence with simple faith, but Francesco is not really here. I think he is on the hillsides with Santa Chiara, in the olive groves, the flower meadows and the gardens. You can find his spirit in the stones, in the pavements, the sun, the moon, the stars, in ordinary homes and the kindness of people. The curtain between heaven and earth is thin here under the Umbrian sunshine, which makes the round of daily life seem sacred and creative. I feel an urge to write again. Tomorrow as usual, I will awake to the sound of church bells.
Iona Jenkins, June 2015
I saw a way of words, winding and fluid
A meandering meadow stream, singing
Ripples, playful, sunlit and magic.
I followed on and on, flowing in the current
To a place at the centre of the song where
The path, the stream, the words and I merged
And nothing else was important then.
Iona, island suspended in time
Like I was never anywhere before
And there is nowhere else to go.
St. Non’s – A Stone Story
A stony story
Pitted, battered chipped
The long lasting bold
Building block with
Myriad magic memories
Of earthwalk and surfcrash
On curving Celtic cliffs
Is granite greyed
Solid and softly surfaced
In coppery coloured cover
And deftly dipped down
Wild woman well.